Two hours of focused time may be a lot to ask, dear reader, but today I’m going to attempt to tackle and dissect an ambitious album that has occupied many hours of my life. If you’re up to the task, I’d like to ask you to commit two hours of your own life to exploring the bizarre and otherworldly sounds of Moon Disk, a collaborative effort from artists Black Mental and Left Hand Path. This album’s roots are in dark ambient and drone, with samples of self-made field recordings, but there’s so much more going on than any simple genre tags or brief descriptors can touch.
Moon Disk, which was released on February 19th to coincide with a new moon under Aquarius, is an affair of shifting tones, queasy frequencies, and swells of sound that make more sense on some internal level than they do as musical compositions. As this album’s title and overall artistic aim refer to the disk carried by the Egyptian god Thoth, creator of language and art, it makes sense that many of these songs evade verbal depiction, instead channeling a more primitive, emotive sensation. It’s all the more interesting that, as a split release, there’s such a cohesive and focused atmosphere and vision here that allows the artists to trade off tracks rather than having two separate sections of the same release. The album begins with Black Mental’s “They Travel with the Wind,” an uncertain and surprisingly jagged experience that retains a dark ambient sensibility but without the simplicity or droning qualities that might be expected. The dizzying, chaotic video below does a thorough job of capturing the deeper currents running throughout this song.
While it’s the only track on the album to have a video, the entire album feels as though it was made to be channeled visually. My preferred environment for experiencing Moon Disk has been walking through my city at night, with increasingly empty streets only lit by lamps and neon lights. In a way, it’s hard to imagine these songs conveying themselves as properly during the light of day or when surrounded by other people. Songs like Left Hand Path’s “Stagnum Niger” may haunt with an eerie resonance, but it’s elements like the pulsing uncertainty and echoing bells of “Triskele,” the fragmented clips of conversations of “Der Wert Der Arbeit” or the ominous and subtly shifting digital bonus track “Lizard” from Black Mental that really show this collaboration to be more than a basic experiment in ambient horror. Indeed, much of what I gather is a peaceful beauty, like the sky reflected on a lake at night. It’s dark and empty on the surface, but conveys so much more when fully embraced and experienced.
Some readers may feel daunted by these songs when confronted with a minimum play time of nine minutes each, but after examination it becomes clear that the effect simply wouldn’t be the same were the artists to introduce a theme only to take it away so quickly. I often visit with albums that feel as though they would carry the same sensation with minutes clipped off, but repetition is often essential to the impact of the work on Moon Disk. If anything, the clipped beats and droning melodies of “Formation of Stone Blocks,” an offering from Left Hand Path and the shortest song here, feel as though they could stand to go on at greater length. Each of these songs is not merely a musical composition, but a sonic template for your own mental exploration. I’ll admit to knowing very little about the alchemy and philosophy that these artists work with, but I can’t help but feel an unseen thread connecting these songs to my own mind as I explore them. Order a copy of this CD from Schwarzarbeit and you can even select which of fifty numbered copies will be yours.